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Black v. Mackie

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 9, 2018

TODD R. BLACK, Plaintiff,
THOMAS MACKIE et al. Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim against Defendants Mackie, Ball, Mitchell, and Goodspeed. The Court also will dismiss one part of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Hill, Keeler, and Biddle. The Court will serve the remainder of the complaint against Defendants Hill, Keeler, and Biddle.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Saginaw County Correctional Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Saginaw County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF) in Manistee, Manistee County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the following ECF officials: Warden Thomas Mackie; Deputy Warden (unknown) Ball; Sergeant (unknown) Mitchell; Correctional Officers (unknown) Hill, (unknown) Keeler, and (unknown) Biddle; and Hearing Investigator (unknown) Goodspeed.

         Plaintiff alleges that, on July 7, 2015, at about 6:10 p.m., he was awaiting his law library callout, which was supposed to begin at 6:15 p.m.. At the last minute, an officer announced that the library computers were down and instructed those inmates who still wished to proceed with the callout to press their emergency response buttons. Plaintiff claims that he pushed his button as instructed “for approximately 8 minutes after 18:10 pm.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) At 6:33 p.m., officers announced that showers were beginning, and the cell doors opened. Plaintiff had to rush to disrobe and grab his shower items, as he was still dressed in his state blues for library callout. As he turned to leave the cell, he saw that the cell door was closing. He ran through the opening, but the cell door closed on him. Plaintiff screamed for help, but Defendant Correctional Officers Hill, Biddle, and Keeler allegedly ignored him, even after he pushed his emergency response button. Plaintiff eventually succeeded in freeing himself from the door, though he came close to passing out, because he could not breathe.

         Plaintiff looked at the control bubble. As he did so, he saw Defendants Hill and Keeler turn their backs on him simultaneously, pretending that they did not see Plaintiff being trapped in the cell door and did not hear his screams. Plaintiff walked to the control bubble to ask Defendants Hill, Keeler, and Biddle why they had not released him from the cell door. At the control center, Plaintiff asked to speak with the shift commander, but Defendant Hill denied his request. Defendant Hill then instructed Plaintiff to go back to his cell and lock down. Plaintiff refused, again declaring that he wanted to speak with a sergeant. Defendant Hill told Plaintiff to turn around and to put his hands behind his back for handcuffing. Plaintiff apparently complied with the second order. Defendants Keeler and Biddle escorted Plaintiff to segregation, Plaintiff asked the officers if he could get medical attention, as his chest was hurting and he was asthmatic. Plaintiff does not indicate whether he was given medical attention, and he makes no further allegations concerning his injuries or health. When Plaintiff reached segregation, he explained to Defendant Mitchell what had happened. Defendant Mitchell left, but returned sometime later to explain to Plaintiff that Mitchell had viewed the video and that nothing had happened. At approximately 7:00 p.m. on July 7, 2015, Defendant Hill wrote a Class-II misconduct charge against Plaintiff for disobeying a direct order. When Defendant Mitchell reviewed the misconduct charge, he elevated it to a Class-I misconduct charge and informed Plaintiff that he was confined to segregation.

         On July 9, 2015, Defendant Goodspeed interviewed Plaintiff on the misconduct charge. Goodspeed informed Plaintiff that a camera recorded the incident at Plaintiff's cell, but no camera was pointed at the control room during the time Plaintiff was trapped. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Goodspeed did not perform his job adequately. On July 16, 2015, a Class-I misconduct hearing was conducted by Hearing Officer S. Burke. According to Burke's hearing report, Plaintiff admitted that he had refused to obey the order to return to his cell, because staff had assaulted him. Burke reported that she had reviewed the video, which showed that Plaintiff attempted to leave his cell as the door was closing. Burke asked Defendant Goodspeed to investigate whether the doors were malfunctioning at the time, and Goodspeed reported that they were not. Because the doors were not malfunctioning, Burke concluded that Plaintiff was not in any danger if he complied with the order to return to his cell. As a consequence, Burke found that compliance with the order was physically possible. Plaintiff therefore was found guilty of the misconduct charge and sanctioned with five days of detention. (Misconduct Hr'g Report, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.12.) As a result of the misconduct conviction, Plaintiff was reclassified to administrative segregation by the security classification committee. (Security Reclassification Notice, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.13.)

         In the interim, on July 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance, complaining that the second-shift correctional officers, including Defendant Hill, intentionally kept closing the door on him. Defendant Mitchell and Lieutenant Boerema (not a defendant) denied the grievance on August 19, 2015. The grievance response indicated that the video clearly showed the door closing, Plaintiff attempting to leave while the door was closing, and Plaintiff attempting to block the door from closing. (Step-I Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.16, 21.) Plaintiff appealed his grievance to Step II. Defendant Mackie denied the grievance on September 4, 2015, finding that Plaintiff had attempted to leave the cell after the door began to close, thereby failing to exercise due caution for his own safety. (Step-II Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.26.) Plaintiff filed a Step-II grievance appeal, which was denied on March 8, 2016.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Hill, Biddle, Keeler, and Mitchell assaulted him, presumably in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff also contends that Defendants Mackie and Goodspeed failed to conduct a proper investigation into the incident, either in the grievance proceedings or the misconduct proceedings.

         Plaintiff seeks a variety of injunctive relief. Specifically, seeks to have assault charges brought against Defendants Hill, Biddle, Keeler, and Mitchell. He also seeks to have Defendant Warden Mackie demoted to a correctional officer and to have Defendant Goodspeed fired from his position. Plaintiff also seeks damages in the amount of $5.5 million.

         II. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

         A. Defendant Ball

         It is a basic pleading essential that a plaintiff attribute factual allegations to particular defendants. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544 (holding that, in order to state a claim, a plaintiff must make sufficient allegations to give a defendant fair notice of the claim). Where a person is named as a defendant without an allegation of specific conduct, the complaint is subject to dismissal, even under the liberal construction afforded to pro se complaints. See Frazier v. Michigan, 41 Fed.Appx. 762, 764 (6th Cir. 2002) (dismissing the plaintiff's claims where the complaint did not allege with any degree of specificity which of the named defendants were personally involved in or responsible for each alleged violation of rights); Griffin v. Montgomery, No. 00-3402, 2000 WL 1800569, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2000) (requiring allegations of personal involvement against each defendant)); Rodriguez v. Jabe, No. 90-1010, 1990 WL 82722, at *1 (6th Cir. June 19, 1990) (“Plaintiff's claims against those individuals are without a basis in law as the complaint is totally devoid of allegations as to them which would suggest their involvement in the events leading to his injuries.”); see also Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994); Krych v. Hvass, 83 Fed.Appx. 854, 855 (8th Cir. 2003); Potter v. Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974); Williams v. Hopkins, No. 06-14064, 2007 WL 2572406, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 6, 2007); McCoy v. McBride, No. 3:96-cv-227RP, 1996 WL 697937, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 5, 1996); Eckford-El v. Toombs, 760 F.Supp. 1267, 1272-73 (W.D. Mich. 1991). Plaintiff fails to even mention Defendant Ball in the body of his complaint. His allegations fall far short of the minimal pleading standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (requiring “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”). The Court therefore will dismiss Defendant Ball for lack of allegations.

         B. Supervisory Liability - Defendants Mackie & Mitchell

         Plaintiff fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendant Mackie, though he suggests that Mackie inadequately or erroneously responded to Plaintiff's Step-II grievance or that Mackie failed to supervise his subordinates. Plaintiff also suggests that Defendant Mitchell mishandled his ...

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